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Obamacare repeal remains Trump’s chief priority, Mike Pence says

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday said eliminating Obamacare remains the chief priority for the administration, as it works with congressional Republicans to replace the law before the summer is over.

Mr. Pence said Congress has no choice but to scrap the 2010 Affordable Care Act, as insurers pull out of the marketplace and request double-digit premium increases.

“Obamacare is dead. That’s why Obamacare must go,” Mr. Pence said in remarks from Milwaukee. “You’d have to be blinded by partisanship not to believe otherwise, and unfortunately some people are. Democrats in Congress to be exact.”

Republicans are using fast-track budget rules to carve Democrats out of the repeal effort, but they’re struggling to pin down a plan that can satisfy at least 50 members of their narrow Senate majority.

Conservatives want to eliminate as much of the law as they can, though moderates are skittish about waiving regulations that allow insurance to charge sicker people more than healthy ones.

A House-passed plan allowed states to waive a “community rating” so long as they subsidize the costs of sicker consumers who would end up paying more, though the Congressional Budget Office said Republicans might not have posted enough money to keep people with preexisting conditions in the market.

Senators are mulling whether to let states waive Obamacare’s set of mandatory benefits, such as maternity care, but not let insurers charge sicker people more.

On Saturday, Mr. Pence said the final plan would allow sicker Americans to get the coverage they want.

“We’re going to make sure every American with preexisting conditions has access to the coverage and the care that they need — no exceptions,” he said.

Mr. Pence largely focused on how the Obamacare program fell short, rather than how the GOP replacement might result in better outcomes. Mr. Trump gave a similar speech front of “Obamacare victims” in Cincinnati earlier this week.

“Help is on the way, and the Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” Mr. Pence said, praising Wisconsin’s delegation for assisting the effort.

The White House hailed the House for acting last month, although it is banking on the Senate to follow suit by Independence Day, prompting an outcry from Democrats who say Republicans are speeding ahead without public hearings.

Public outrage over estimated coverage losses in the GOP overhaul nearly derailed the House effort, yet Senate Republicans have claimed momentum in recent days.

Still, a few sticking points remain.

Aides said the Senate’s main referee, the parliamentarian, has raised concerns about language that would bar people from using refundable tax credits in the GOP plan for abortion.

The GOP is using a process known as “budget reconciliation” to pass their bill with a simply majority in the Senate. The parliamentarian can scratch policy changes that aren’t related to the budget during a vetting process known in Capitol-speak as the “Byrd bath.”

Pro-life groups would revolt against any bill that allowed consumers to use government tax credits for abortion, so they’re hoping that lawmakers can legislate around the problem.

The House bill’s far-reaching cuts to Medicaid insurance for the poor are another sticking point for senators from states that vastly expanded their programs under Obamacare.

Republicans such as Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada are looking for a more gradual phaseout of generous federal funding that’s allowed their states to cover the needy and been a critical tool in fighting the opioid epidemic.

The House-passed bill would freeze enhanced federal funding for the expansion population in 2020. While those who’d enrolled by then would receive full funding until they cycled out of the program, new enrollees would be subject to each state’s pre-Obamacare funding formula, known in policy-speak as the “FMAP.”

Senators are looking for a more gradual phase-down of the expansion funding, with discussions ranging from an additional three to seven years.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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